What started as a hobby and an idea to make some extra cash has turned into an award-winning product for UCF seniors and self-proclaimed sneakerheads Eric Delgado and Victoria Weiss. Delgado and Weiss’s Rope Lace Supply, which makes colorful, custom shoelaces for sneaker aficionados, recently took second place—and a $10,000 prize—at the 2016 Forbes Under 30 Summit in Boston.

The Blackstone LaunchPad program hosted the pitch competition at Hard Rock Café Boston for top ventures from 20 schools within the Blackstone Charitable Foundation network, including UCF, and awarded prize money to the three winners.

Delgado and Weiss credited the Blackstone LaunchPad at UCF for helping get their dream of a sneaker shoelace business off the ground. The Blackstone LaunchPad is a campuswide initiative that helps student entrepreneurs bring their business ideas to life. It is one of a suite of services offered through UCF College of Business Administration’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.

“Thanks to our helpful coaches at the Blackstone Launchpad at UCF, we have increased our revenue by an additional $75,000,” said Weiss, a Health Sciences major who owns more than 50 pairs of sneakers. “It has been a great experience being part of a community of student entrepreneurs. We know what it’s like to run a business while in school and are able to support and learn from each other.”

The Blackstone LaunchPad at UCF provides one-on-one startup coaching, seminars and access to a mentor network and subject-matter experts. Students have access to free services without any obligations. Counselors provide confidential feedback and resources to help students learn how to build and manage their business. They can get information on everything from how to file taxes and raise funding to bookkeeping and marketing.

Delgado and Weiss started Rope Lace Supply as sophomores with just $300. With a goal of creating fun, unique shoelaces that allow sneakerheads to personalize their shoes, Delgado and Weiss found a distributor and set up a website.

“By sending free laces to social media influencers and advertising through them, in just one day we sold out of 200 pairs,” Weiss said. “Eric and I rarely got any sleep because of long nights packing orders in my UCF dorm room.”

Since its establishment in 2013, Rope Lace Supply has grossed $800,000 and sold more than 150,000 pairs of shoelaces. They have customers in 75 countries and on six different continents, and have worked with Adidas, Finish Line, Bloomberg and United Way.

Now the creators of Rope Lace Supply have their sights set on making their product available in 100 retailers and entering into licensing agreements with major athletic brands. They also plan to open an office and hire employees.

To learn more about Rope Lace Supply, visit: http://www.ropelacesupply.com/.

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